LAST NIGHT

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The Independent Culture
The BBC has a very bad case of the jitters at the moment - almost beside itself with anxiety that no part of the output should be deemed insensitive. Gloomy thrillers have been pulled from the schedules, the opening episode of Holding On, one of the new autumn dramas, has been re-edited to remove a reference to Prince William, and a car-crash has reportedly been excised from the repeat of Our Friends in the North. Given the fierce spasm of sentiment which has seized the country they perhaps can't be blamed for being so careful, but you can't help wondering whether things have gone a bit too far when even funeral directors become unmentionable. Last night's edition of The Grafters (BBC2) - a series of observational documentaries about young people at work - was to have included someone from the funeral trade, but was replaced by an episode which detailed work in a frozen-food factory and advertising sales.

If you expected a vibrant sense of optimism from the programmes you will have been disappointed. So far, the most common phrase has been "I never thought I'd be..." - a regular chime of disillusion which has introduced a range of occupations, from telesales to sorting mixed packs of frozen vegetables into their individual components. The disenchantment was probably cruellest in the case of the girl who had graduated in drama from Manchester University to take up a job playing Edward the Fox in a Yorkshire theme- park (shown on Tuesday night). "I'm a bit of a method actor," she explained, which made you wonder how she might apply herself to her new role. Arrange to have herself chased by beagles? Eat raw chickens? You saw her nervously preparing for the first performance in the theme-park theatre, a debut that was somewhat undermined by the total absence of an audience.

She wasn't as sad as Nick, though - living proof that Beavis and Butthead is a work of sociological precision. He even had the laugh: "I did it once so fast that, like, three people were sick at once," he said, explaining the operation of a fairground ride, "Hur, hur, hur". Nick got the prize for the most redundant remark of the week (in a week, let's face it, when redundancy was all that stood between many broadcasters and blank silence). "I don't put 100 per cent in everyday," he said in a mildly aggrieved tone, clearly feeling that management had been picking on him. In fact, he was obviously having great difficulties getting into double figures, being too busy picking up girls or dreaming of a life as a skateboard professional. The gloomiest omen for his future was the look of dazed surprise he wore when he was eventually sacked.

Behind the Lines (BBC2) is yet another of the BBC's stealth repeats - an old programme specially treated with up-to-date inserts so that it doesn't appear on the grievance radar of belligerent licence-payers. Ian Wooldridge's programme about the training of an elite force of Marine commandos is also an object lesson in a peculiar kind of strenuous masculinity. Oddly enough, it bears a distinct resemblance to gay culture - as the camera panned across a line of hopefuls, you suddenly noticed that everyone was wearing an identical clone moustache - put them in checked shirts and they would have been able to infiltrate any gay disco in the western world. When they went for a run, stripped to their combat trousers, it looked like the opening sequence for a gay-porn remake of Chariots of Fire. The intense bonds created by eating worm omelettes and climbing cliffs in the dark does not always transfer well to civilian life. One old alumni had done seven years for armed robbery since the programme was first broadcast, while another admitted that he'd "become a bit of a loner" after leaving the army. He also confessed to a continuing addiction to adrenalin, a remark that raised an echo undetected by the taste police. A lot of ex-servicemen take up jobs as security advisers or bodyguards, where this carefully inculcated machismo has to find new outlets - such as racing paparazzi through the streets of Paris.

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